Three 6 Mafia is a Southern hip-hop and rap group from Memphis, Tennessee. They formed in 1991 with the original members, DJ Paul, Lord Infamous, Juicy J and Koopsta Knicca. Shortly after they formed, and before the debut of their first album, Mystic Styles, members Crunchy Black and Gangsta Boo were added to the group.
Mystic Styles debuted in 1995 and was the beginning of huge successes from the group, whose hits have included, “Hard Out Here for a Pimp”, Stay Fly, Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp, and Ridin Spinners. However, in 2000, the members began to leave the group, so that by 2007 members Juicy J and DJ Paul were the only members left of the group. In 2006 at the 78th Academy Awards, Three 6 Mafia won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their song “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” for the movie Hustle & Flow. Three 6 Mafia became the first hip hop group to win an Oscar. DJ Paul and Juicy J continued their success, both together and on solo projects, but Three 6 Mafia as a group had not reunited until 2013.
Last summer, it was confirmed that the group would reunite under a new name, Da Mafia 6, and begin putting out new music and touring the following year. Only a few months after their first mixtape, The 6ix Commandments was released, original members DJ Paul, Gangsta Boo, the late Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca, and Crunchy Black are back and better than ever.
The onstage setup
I had the privilege of speaking with Da Mafia 6 before their third stop on their 2014 tour, at Diamond Pub and Billiards in Louisville. I sat on a couch across from DJ Paul, Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo and Koopsta Knicca for fifteen minutes of conversation that I will never forget.
The members of Da Mafia 6 were very laid back and humble, despite their immense accomplishments in their 24 years of performing and meeting fans. They finished each other’s sentences and spoke like four old friends.
Interviewing DJ Paul
Koopsta Knicca, Crunchy Black, and Gangsta Boo share a couch during the interview.
Alexis: So, DJ Paul, what have you been doing?
DJ Paul: On this road, just trying to get through the whole thing. It’s a different concert every night so it’s a lot of work. It’s cool though, it’s fun. We’ve been working on the new album. We’ll bring it out on 6/6/14. March 6th, 2014 will be a remastered DJ Paul and Lord Infamous underground tape.
Lord Infamous, an original co-founder of Three 6 Mafia, passed on December 20, 2013 at the age of 40 due to a heart attack. He was the half brother of DJ Paul and active in the group for over 20 years.
Alexis: If I may ask about Lord Infamous, what would he say about the tour?
DJ Paul: He would love it. Lord pretty much put this whole thing together. We were going to do some Paul and Lord Infamous tapes and we were going to start doing new songs. But Lord was like, “I want to do the group thing!” I had jumped around the idea one night on Twitter and I woke up the next day and thousands of people were like “yeah, please”. So I asked Lord Infamous again and he was like, “Yeah, I want to do the group thing.” So he got in touch with Koopsta and I got in touch with Crunchy, but I was always in touch with Crunchy. Lord helped me organize it and get everybody together and then a month later he passed. It was weird, it was like his last little mission in life. And then we shot the “Where is the Bud” video from 1992 and then he left.
Alexis: I’m sure he’d love to see it.
DJ Paul: Oh he’s here. You’ll see him tonight. (As he smiles)
The casket was with the group and was brought out onto the stage during their performance to pay respect to the late Lord Infamous.
Alexis: So how was playing in your hometown of Memphis?
Three 6 Mafia opened their tour as a group for the first time in 13 years on February 28th in their hometown of Memphis.
Dj Paul: It was crazy. It was sold out. 2000 people. Every night we film the show and then in three days you’ll be able to watch it online.
Alexis: So are we going to see the Gangsta Walk tonight Crunchy?
The Gangsta Walk, or g-walking, is Crunchy Black’s signature dance move. It originated in Memphis, Tennessee, which is home to Three 6 Mafia. You can watch Crunchy Black do the gangsta walk in their popular song, Ridin Spinners. The dance begins at 3:43.
Crunchy Black: Most definitely.
Alexis: Being gone for 13 years as a group and coming back to the rap game, what do you feel like you have that these other artists don’t?
DJ Paul: We have the legendary skills. We have that sound that they try to steal, but they can’t quite get it right. They don’t have the equipment I have from 1988.
Alexis: There are artists that try to copy your style but they just can’t quite get it right.
DJ Paul: They try.
Alexis: Who are you listening to now?
DJ Paul: There are some new guys out there I like, but the most part I don’t listen to rap music. I listen to a lot of rock and roll music.
Alexis: Who is your favorite rock and roll artist or band?
DJ Paul: I like Van Halen. But when Eddie Lee Roth was there. I listen to a lot of 80’s like Duran Duran.
Alexis: Will we still here that “Mystic Style” on your new album?
DJ Paul: Yeah, yeah, everyone that has the cd out now 6ix Commandments, it’s gives you a feel of the old music. But we just made it a little crazier Like in the video “Break the Law” the guy’s head is cut off. The album will be even crazier.
Alexis: So, the Oscars are tonight and I know you used to carry your Oscar [for 2006’s Hustle and Flow] around; do you still carry it around?
DJ Paul: No, I haven’t seen that award in about three years. I bubble wrapped it and locked it up.
Alexis: Is there a reason?
DJ Paul: Yeah, there is a reason. I even took all of my awards, I had like 50 gold and platinum plaques on the wall from the group and artists I’ve produced, and I took all of my awards down. Because you don’t want ever want to get in the state of mind that did everything that you can do in life. You always want to stay hungry.
I once heard about this billionaire that would get rid of all his money, spend it all, just to go back and get it back up and he would do that. I don’t know how true that is it sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me.
You don’t ever want to be in that mind that “I done did everything that I could do.” You want to put all that up, kiss it, thank God that you got it, and then go after another one. So I put the Oscar and all my gold medals up and I’m waiting to get the next one.
Alexis: Do you prefer Memphis or Hollywood?
DJ Paul: Well it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m with a hot chick that’s more Hollywood, but if I’m wanting to eat some good food and hang around with family and friends that’s going to be Memphis. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in.
"It's Gangsta Boo" Ms. Lola Mitchell says as she prepares her microphone at sound check.
Alexis: Gangsta Boo, when you left the group in 2000 you were trying to find yourself. What advice can you give about finding yourself?
Gangsta Boo: Just learn yourself, don’t be in denial about certain habits that you’ve got. Admit them, deal with them, and fight them. Pretty much just know yourself. If you love yourself, you’re going to know yourself.
Alexis: Are you still working on your cosmetics line? (You can view her apparel and accessories page here.)
Gangsta Boo: Yeah, I am but I am so focused with what we’re working on now. I’ve got the nail polish out now, it’s called Gangsta Boo x Real Sexy Red and it’s and I’m going to do lip gloss, eye shadows, foundation, eyelashes. It will be out this year for sure.
Koopsta: She’s got this Forever Gangsta t-shirt that I want.
You can find women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, and headwear on her website, LolaMitchell.com.
Gangsta Boo: It’s cool because we all like getting money together and we’re having fun. We all like doing the same thing and we all represent the same thing. We’re just having fun. Anything that we’re doing is all together.
Koopsta Knicca prepares his microphone at sound check.
Alexis: How did you feel about the name change from Three 6 Mafia to Da Mafia 6? Did you still think that the same fans would be around?
DJ Paul: Yeah, basically it’s a new group, it’s the same old group but at the same time it’s new because Juicy is not here and he was a big part of Three 6 Mafia. It’s a super group. I knew the fans would be supportive because they’ve been begging for us for the longest. We’ve all got our fans, individually. Koopsta, Crunchy, Boo, they all have theirs.
Koopsta: I wasn’t hungry when DJ Paul called me, I was starving.
DJ Paul: We always crack jokes because I would play the beat, like two seconds of the beat, and Koop would be like, “I’m ready, I got my rap.”
Gangsta Boo: He was literally first on every song.
Koopsta: And I’ll be first on all the other ones, too. See I’m HDAD.
Alexis: You all are still the same Three 6 Mafia from back in the 90’s; did anything feel different when you all got back together?
DJ Paul: It was just like the old days.
Koopsta: I was a hard head back in the day.
DJ Paul: You mean five or six minutes ago?
DJ Paul, Koopsta Knicca, and Crunchy Black crack jokes during the interview.
Koopsta: I had to change, I’ve changed. In order to be with the group. I realized all the mess-ups were my fault, which is why I got released. I had to change a lot of stuff and accept a lot of stuff. I had to leave the streets alone and stay away. You’ve got to look out for other people. So, I stay in the house a lot now and watch Family Guy.
Koopsta left the group in 2000 for personal reasons.
Gangsta Boo: You’ve got to know yourself. Perfect example.
DJ Paul: It’s a job that can bring so much temptation in it. You’ve got people offering you free drugs, so you’ve got to learn how to control it. We’ve been doing this for 24 years. Nobody has been doing it that long. There have been other groups that have been around that long, but they don’t have like 100 CDs out like we do. It’s a lot of work.
Photos courtesy of Adam Creech
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